Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, will arrive in Israel next month for talks aimed at reassuring Israel that the US is serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

The visit is seen as bolstering military ties between Israel and the United States.

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Dempsey will arrive in mid- January in a trip that comes as the US escalates its rhetoric regarding US military preparations to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In an interview with CNN last week, Dempsey said that preparations for a military option “are evolving to a point that they would be executable if necessary.”

The former commander of the US Army, Dempsey was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs in October, succeeding Adm. Michael Mullen, whose term was marked by increased cooperation with the IDF and chief of staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi.

Current Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz knows Dempsey from his days as the IDF attaché in Washington, but it will be their first time meeting in their current posts.

Mullen and Ashkenazi met over a dozen times during their joint terms.

Talks with Dempsey are expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program as well as regional developments such as the challenges Israel faces from a possible Islamic takeover in Egypt and from Hezbollah and Syria in the North.

In a recent interview, Dempsey said that Israel would likely not update the US ahead of a strike.

Dempsey is also expected to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The visit comes at a time of rising tension between Jerusalem and Washington over the continued impasse in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Defense officials stressed though that despite political differences between the countries, military and intelligence ties have seen a significant boost in recent years. The visit comes months before Israel and the US hold the largest ever joint-missile defense drill.

Scheduled for May, the drill is called “Austere Challenge” and is expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel. It will also include the establishment of IDF command posts at European Command headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a largescale conflict in the Middle East.

The US will also bring its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and shipbased Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel to simulate the interception of missile salvos against Israel.

The American systems will work in conjunction with Israel’s missile defense systems – the Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome – and live interceptions are expected to take place during the drill.

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